Dummies!

While there were no World War II battles fought in North America, the war certainly left its imprint on Newfoundland and Labrador.  That imprint ranges from the iron ore carriers that were sunk off Bell Island to the construction of Gander and the naval base at Argentia.  On a smaller scale it includes such things as the German weather station, code named ‘Kurt, in northern Labrador and various gun emplacements found all over the province.  One of the more interesting of the gun emplacements is found just outside St. John’s, just off the road to Cape Spear.

In the fall of 2007 while looking through some of the many photos that are posted on Google Earth I came across a photo with the intriguing title of ‘Stone Walls’.

Google Earth image: Stone Walls. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/3086595
The walls as seen in Google Earth

The photo showed a circular depression outlined by a ring of dry laid stones.  In October of 2007 a colleague and I went out to the area to examine the ring ourselves.  After a brief search of the area we found a second ring of dry laid stones just a short distance away.  Both rings measure ~6 m x 8 m and show a considerable amount of effort in their construction.

The second stone ring

Initially we were puzzled as to what these features were, although we did speculate that they were related to the military.  After some basic research we believe the features were dummy or decoy World War II batteries.  This was confirmed by a Parks Canada employee who provided a photograph of one of the ‘guns’ and also suggested they were constructed around 1942.

Dummy battery at Blackhead (Parks Canada employee)

Both stone features are very similar in their construction and measurement.  Each has an internal ring made of 4 or 5 courses of dry laid stones they are ~50 cm high.  The rings both have a more substantial wall on one side of their internal rings made of 8 to 10 courses of dry laid stones that is ~1.40m high.  Each feature has an entrance in both their external and internal rings.  The width of the interior ring for both features is ~5.50 m by ~6 m.  The distance between the interior ring and exterior ring in both features varied between ~1.5 and ~2.5m.  Both features had two spurs that protruded from each side of the substantial wall.  On the Blackhead 1 feature these were ~4.50m long while on the Blackhead 2 feature one spur was ~4.20m long and the other was just 2m long.

Approximate plan map for both features showing main characteristics

A few brief references to the Blackhead dummy batteries were located on the internet as well:

Blackhead Dummy Battery
(1940’s), Blackhead
A dummy (decoy) battery was located here, a few miles west ofCapeSpear.

http://www.northamericanforts.com/Canada/nf.html

During World War II there was a decoy built at this site a dummy fort, constructed to confuse any German planes that might make their way across the ocean. The sites were once equipped with fake guns and skeleton buildings.

http://www.trailpeak.com/index.jsp?cat=hike&con=trail&val=1343

A reference to a similar type battery in New Brunswick was also found:

Sheldon Point, located between Saints Rest Beach and Dufferin Battery, was the site of a dummy gun battery. A dummy gun position had 2 purposes: to discourage attack by making defences appear more formidable; and to draw enemy fire in the event of an attack. The dummy gun was usually a simple tar paper construction.

http://www.saintjohn.nbcc.nb.ca/heritage/Fortress/SheldonPoint.htm

Another reference with a nice panoramic shot of both Blackhead batteries.

http://www.ideaphore.com/Image_Galleries/2004.04.24.BlackHead/index.html

Dummy battery at Saints Rest Beach in New Brunswick. http://www.saintjohn.nbcc.nb.ca/heritage/Fortress/SheldonPoint.htm
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2 thoughts on “Dummies!

  1. i AM ONE OF THE SOLDIERS OF THE ROYAL CANADIAN ENGINEERS WHO CONSTRUCTED THE DUMMY GUNS AT bLACKHEAD IN 1945 YOU CAN CONTACT ME AT —- one other soldier is still alive.,

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